City Of Sydney Defends Trigen Scheme

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New Matilda has now published two articles in four days criticising the City of Sydney’s proposed trigeneration low-carbon energy network without even contacting us.

The City plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 70 per cent from 2006 levels by 2030 — one of the most ambitious targets of any Australian government.

Using detailed research by independent energy experts, the City identified trigeneration as the best way to replace coal-fired power. Trigeneration provides the largest emissions reduction at the least cost, after energy efficiency measures.

The City will initially use natural gas to fuel its low-carbon energy trigeneration networks, before moving to renewable gases produced from waste.

Trigeneration plants are super-efficient, local-energy generators which can supply precincts or clusters of surrounding buildings with low-carbon electricity and zero carbon heating and cooling while halving carbon emissions.

They would replace electricity from coal-fired power stations which are responsible for 80 per cent of the City of Sydney area’s carbon emissions.

Trigeneration networks are used around the world in cities such as New York, London, Barcelona, Copenhagen, Singapore and Seoul. They are already being used in Australia by major companies including Dexus property group, Westfield, Canberra airport and Places Victoria at Dandenong, near Melbourne.

And they are increasingly being used in Sydney by Qantas at its base near Sydney airport with plans to install trigeneration at the Central Park development by Frasers and at the Barangaroo development by Lend Lease.

The authors of the articles claim the City’s trigeneraton network would drive up demand for natural gas and lead to increased demand for coal seam gas.

This is nonsense. Even at its full capacity in 2030, the City’s trigeneration network would only account for 3 per cent of projected demand for gas in NSW, or 1 per cent in the Eastern Gas Market, covering Qld, NSW, Vic and S.A by 2030. Regardless of whether this trigneration project went ahead or not, there would still be large-scale industrial, commercial and residential demand for gas.

But what trigeneration will do is use that gas more efficiently so it uses less gas than a large-scale gas fired power station to produce each unit of energy.

The authors also question the City’s strategy to move from natural gas for its trigeneration network, to renewable fuels or biogases produced from garbage, sewage, crop and livestock wastes. This practise is happening widely in Europe, led by Germany, Austria, Denmark, Netherlands, Sweden and the UK. Even the National Grid in the USA is developing a renewable gas grid injection program in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Rhode Island.

Denmark is often cited as a world leader in renewable energy as it supplies 25 per cent of electricity consumed from wind energy. However, Denmark is also a world leader in precinct scale decentralised energy comprising cogeneration, trigeneration, solar and geothermal district heating which now supplies 52 per cent of Denmark’s electricity and 80 per cent of its heating and cooling. A third of Greater Copenhagen’s decentralised energy network is now renewably fuelled.

The City of Sydney’s renewable energy master plan, to be released later this year will follow world renewable energy best practice. It will detail sources of renewable energy both inside and outside the City of Sydney area, including solar, onshore and offshore wind, geothermal, wave, tidal and renewable gases from waste.

Renewable gases supplying trigeneration are a key part of the renewable energy solution. They overcome the problem of intermittent power supply of conventional renewable energy sources such as wind and solar. Trigeneration, run on renewable gases, can directly replace fossil fuel power generation, including base load power stations, 24 hours a day.

The plan has assessed the extent and location of various types of waste which can be used to produce renewable gases. It has found there is more than enough waste resources within 250 km of the City to replace natural gas as a fuel for the City’s trigeneration network, which would make 70 per cent of its electricity and 100 per cent of its heating and cooling renewable..

The City is also committed to producing the remaining 30 per cent of its electricity from renewables sources such as solar and wind. It is already rolling out more than 5500 solar panels on over 30 of its sites in a $4.3 million project which is one the largest building-mounted solar panel projects in Australia.

The City is also using energy more efficiently undertaking a major energy and water retrofit of its buildings to reduce their energy use by 20 per cent saving a $1 million a year.

It has also begun a $7.1 million rollout of more than 6000 energy efficient LED street and park lights which will reduce electricity use by 40 per cent and save nearly $800,000 a year.

An energy efficiency master plan will be published later this year which will detail practical and economic energy efficiency measures for both commercial and residential buildings to reduce central Sydney’s energy consumption.

Unlike many governments, the City has moved on from academic or theoretical greenhouse gas reductions and is implementing and completing projects to deliver them. It has already cut emissions by 20 per cent from 2006 levels and is on track to reach its 70 per cent target by 2030 through energy efficiency, renewable energy and trigeneration. Energy efficiency measures on their own are not enough on their own to allow us to meet our ambitious targets.

I’m a little surprised the authors have spent so much time criticising the City of Sydney for its sustained efforts to slash greenhouse gas emissions. If the authors can point to a single government in Australia doing more than the City of Sydney then let’s hear about it.

New Matilda

New Matilda is independent journalism at its finest. The site has been publishing intelligent coverage of Australian and international politics, media and culture since 2004.

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